The Smith-Emery, which was established in 1904, began performing independent inspection and testing on commercial building structures following the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. The rebuilding of San Francisco created new markets for this small laboratory which at the time had very little competition. The company tested construction materials, analyzed various products and provided engineering support for the citywide reconstruction of San Francisco.

In April of 1910, Smith Emery opened a laboratory in Los Angeles with five employees. The volume of work increased as the company's reputation for quality, on-time work grew. In 1928, after out-growing the existing space in Los Angeles, the laboratory moved to larger facilities and business continued to expand until the economy took a downturn during depression in the early 1930's. The company stayed in business, however, in part through the sacrifice of the employees who all agreed to reduce their level of income in order for all to stay employed and to help the company survive.

Business started to pick in the late 1930's and then, as, World War II created a big demand for testing and inspection of materials and construction, Smith-Emery began to thrive. With the war came the demand for new materials and applications, including the use of concrete on warships. When the war was over and war-time industries declined, civilian businesses gradually developed and increased. In 1953, the Los Angeles offices moved once again to larger and better equipped facilities.

In the 1960's, Smith-Emery re-established a laboratory in Northern California and in 1977, a laboratory in San Francisco was opened to handle the company's increase in testing and inspection in that part of the state. Since then, the company has taken a leadership role in the development of the Western United States, supporting the construction and industrial industries, including brick makers, cement manufacturers, oil producers and refineries, steel makers, water agencies, shipping industries, aerospace companies, electronics industries, plastics manufacturers and the construction industry. Smith-Emery has worked with all levels of government including, federal, state, city and county as well as the private sector of these industries.

Today, more than 100 years after the San Francisco earthquake, Smith-Emery employs over 400 people in California and has an office in China. Smith-Emery Laboratories includes five certified materials testing laboratories and the company offers the visual and nondestructive examination of concrete, masonry, soil, structural steel, welding and fireproofing. It provides testing services for building faces, tiles, marbles, granite, roof materials, skylights, bathtubs and sinks. The company offers physical laboratory and metallurgical engineering services through Smith-Emery Laboratories and geotechnical and environmental services through Smith-Emery Geoservices. Smith-Emery is affiliated with the Structural Engineers Association of California, American Welding Society and American Architectural Manufacturers association.